Ref! On women’s sport and freedom of speech

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.


Evening gents. Let’s break with tradition tonight and speak of something that is suddenly all over the media. Women’s sport.

No longer can you take a headline at face value, Dave. You glance at BBC Sport on your phone and read “England ranked fifth in the world” and you’re halfway through thinking, “How is this possible?” when you look at the little photo and realize that although it is some people playing football, they are women.

You’re right, Baz, it’s not just football. The T20 cricket World Cup was even more confusing because they held a women’s event at exactly the same time, so every time you checked there were two stories, and only one was the real one.

No, hear me out, Dave, I know your missus is one of the top volleyball players in the county, and  you are a supportive husband and good for you, so you’re bound to be excited when something happens in that world, but with all due respect, it’s a minority sport and who really gives a toss? It’s like being the best boxer in a convent.

But with your major sports like football and cricket – yes, I know nobody goes to watch cricket anymore, but it’s still one of the big ones – when one country’s best players are playing another country’s best players, those players are men. Am I right, Baz? Of course I am, mate, thank you.

What do you mean, what’s up with me, Dave? Yes, I do now have a new girlfriend who’s a very sporty type, and no, I haven’t had a row with her. But for Christ’s sake, I get enough of this at home and I thought I might be able to speak my mind down the pub without you lot going all feminist on me.

Hockey, that’s what she plays. Again, a second-tier sport in my opinion, but she likes it, so… And football-wise she’s an Arsenal fan and you’re right, Baz, Ozil could be a woman in disguise, couldn’t he? And Ramsey. They’re suspiciously close, those two; one plays well, so does the other and vice versa.

Cheers Gary, pint of bitter in a dirty glass. That’s a Bob Hope line, showing how tough he is really. Son of Paleface. It’s a western and he’s in the saloon and orders a glass of milk and the other punters think it’s funny, so he goes, “In a dirty glass”.

No, I don’t feel I have to assert my masculinity just because I’ve been insinuating things about certain men. We’re talking about sport, aren’t we?

Yes, tennis has always had women’s tournaments as well as men’s, and okay, I do have a thing about Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, so I suppose I have an interest in their tournaments. And that could mean it’s pointing the way for the other sports. But I mean really, the papers will have to go back to being broadsheets because you can’t fit two of everything onto a tabloid page.

No, Baz, that’s the sort of comment that gets people in trouble. It’s the sort of thing Sepp Blatter might say. “They can have equal prize money if they share the same changing rooms as the guys” indeed. Shame on you, mate. We’re not animals, we’re discerning sports fans.

Yeah, all right, Dave. Your missus can’t hear me because she’s not here, so the only way I’m going to get barred from your annual barbecue is if you tell her. And as the great Boycey said to Del in Only Fools, “You may be many things, but you are not a grass”.

I’m just saying, mate. There’s enough sport in the world without doubling the coverage on the basis of gender. There, that sounded statesmanlike, didn’t it?



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